Coursework teaches students to draw or create images of human and animal bodies as well as plants. Bachelor's degree programs offer a comprehensive combination of science and art education and master's degree programs focus on topics like business, multimedia and modeling. Online courses and programs are generally not available in this field.
Students are required to have a high school diploma or GED certificate and are encouraged to take numerous prerequisite classes in art, biology and chemistry. A portfolio and essay are typically required for admission to a baccalaureate pre-medical illustration program.
Medical illustration bachelor's programs typically require high school coursework to include at least two years of biological science as well as some art training. As with most art and design programs, applicants may need to submit proof of art studio experience as well as a portfolio.
Individuals interested in a master's program are required to hold a bachelor's degree related to the field of arts, sciences or education for admittance to a graduate program in medical illustration. They are asked to submit a portfolio with a minimum of 20 examples, letters of reference, and a letter of intent; they must also complete a personal interview. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are sometimes needed. Prerequisite courses may include anatomy and physiology, drawing, graphic design, computer graphics, developmental anatomy and tissue studies.
Bachelor's Degree in Pre-Medical Illustration
Titles for medical illustration programs may include biological, scientific and biomedical illustration or visualization. Pre-medical illustration degree programs typically prepare students for graduate coursework. The biological aspect of the degree focuses on plant and biology art, while the pre-medical portion relates to human and animal anatomy, medical terminology and artistic rendering techniques for vertebrate tissue, molecular cell biology and related topics. This program may result in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Students applying to pre-medical illustration programs are sometimes required to do so in their second year of study on a 4-year degree plan. The first year consists of introductory courses and enables students to build a portfolio.
The curriculum provided in a pre-medical illustration college program is a comprehensive mixture of art, design and scientific coursework. Subjects may include:
- Drawing and design fundamentals
- Basic art design software
- Concept and digital drawing
- Insect, animal and human biology
- Human physiological characteristics
- Developmental biology principles
Bachelor's Degree in Medical Illustration
A bachelor's program in medical illustration combines traditional artistic methods with computer technology and biological sciences. Students learn medical illustration techniques by drawing, painting, sculpting and digitally creating images of human and animal anatomy. Computer animation techniques involving 2- and 3-dimensional design add a modern slant to this undergraduate degree program. This program does not vary substantially from a pre-medical illustration program, but may be preferred by those who don't intend to pursue a graduate degree.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for acceptance to this undergraduate program. Drawing, painting and sculpting are all courses included in a medical illustration bachelor's degree program, but graphic and digital design are emphasized as well. Coursework entails:
- Illustration in dimensions
- In-motion artwork
- General, human and animal biology
- Gross human anatomy
- Surgical art composition
- Computer animation methods
Master's Degree in Medical Illustration
A medical illustration graduate program is typically two years long and may offer concentrations in computer animation, digital illustration or prosthetic design. Although programs typically result in a Master of Science, it is also possible for students to gain a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts. Program names may vary from 'medical illustration' to 'biological visualization,' among other variations.
Regardless of the title, these programs offer similar objectives. Research and business management classes are provided in addition to coursework focused on advanced biomedical sciences, surgical observations and multimedia studies. Students learn how to apply new skills while addressing research topics in the medical field.
Programs differ in the structure and delivery of coursework. Some medical illustration curriculums are pre-planned, while others offer extensive electives to choose from. Subjects may include:
- Clinical science principles
- Educational design
- Business fundamentals
- Craniofacial characteristics
- Modeling and simulation
- Anaplastology methods
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports illustrators among craft and fine artists. Craft and fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, are projected to see a two percent growth in employment from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. The average annual salary of fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, was $54,170 in May 2015.
After obtaining a graduate degree in medical illustration, individuals are qualified to enter teaching careers. Other potential positions are:
- Medical media artist
- Legal graphic artist
- Medical art producer
- Creative Director
Earning a bachelor's or master's degree in medical illustration will prepare the student for a career which allows them to combine artistic and graphic skills with principles of biology. Those who successfully complete the program often find work in the teaching segment. They may also enter a career in developing various forms of illustrative and graphic materials representing anatomy and physiology of both animal and plant specimens.